Sunday, 27 April 2008

Warm dry rock

Apart from Saturday morning it's been a very dry and sunny weekend and ideal for getting back into rock climbing and looking at crag rescue techniques with Sara and Chris.
A lot less snow on the hills though all the main Northern Corries and gully lines are still full.
In contrast the next few days look like they may be good for winter skills and winter climbing...!


Friday, 25 April 2008

The Cairngorm corries and plateau are still very snowy


Despite the milder temperatures over the past few days the the Northern Corries and Cairngorm plateau still have very good snow cover...
With the forecast return of colder temperatures from Monday next week the snow will remain on the hills for sometime to come making careful route choice, ice axes and crampons essential. In fact many of the easier gullies and climbs will be in superb winter nick when the freezing level drops to 900 metre from Monday onwards.
Over on Ben Nevis some of the higher ice routes could be really good too...!
There's still plenty of snow for skiing on and off the piste though this is often very hard first thing in the morning until it softens later in the day. Care required on sun warmed slopes especially below any large cornices!
We're doing some private guiding next week on the Scottish Munro's and are expecting to need to negotiate some very icy grade one winter ground to reach some of the summits - so axes and crampons and the ability to use them are essential!

Monday 21st April 2008 Point Five ice climbing video

Photos of Fi the camera woman in action and Ron on the Rogue pitch courtesy on Ian Fowler..


Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Cairngorm ski touring

After our day climbing over in the west on the Ben we decided on a short ski tour up Lurcher's. Our original plan was to get a lift pass but as it was a bit windy we decided just to go for a ski wander... It was just about possible to ski from the carpark with a lot of heather and boulder hopping but probably better to hike a bit higher or use the lower Fiacaill ski area tow tracks for skinning up. The lower snow was very wet and heavy but better up high on the plateau. Still excellent cover on the plateau and in the Coires with all the gully lines and coires brimming with snow. More details at
Monday, 21 April 2008

Perfect ice on the Ben

Full details and lots more pictures of our outing on Ben Nevis can be found at
We took quite a number of video clips on all the main ice pitches so I will publish another YouTube video in a few days on climbing Point Five a day to remember...!
Saturday, 19 April 2008

Still great snow cover with dry rock in the valleys

The Cairngorms still have excellent snow cover for on and off-piste skiing right down to the car park and the valley forests have bone dry trails for mountain biking. The Northern Corrie crags are plastered white for winter climbing while in the glens the rock is bone dry for rock climbing. Outdoor heaven....!
Friday, 18 April 2008

Smith's Route Ben Nevis video from 16th April 2008

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Cold and gusty on the Ben

with lots of spindrift but fantastic ice ...!
Mid April ice climbing on Smith's Route Ben Nevis video
For detailed report and photos see
Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Yesterday's evening ski tour video

Monday, 14 April 2008

Another great day for ski touring

After the near whiteout conditions during the weekend, Monday afternoon and evening where clear and bright.
There's still absolutely fantastic snow cover throughout the Cairngorm plateau with hardly a rock in site.
Today you could ski anywhere from the summit of Cairngorm on lovely silky snow on the southern aspects. Amazingly we had the whole place to ourselves laying tracks on virgin snow!
The northern aspect were still good for skis with entertaining soft sastruga near the summit and slightly heavier snow on the Coronation Wall and the Cas Headwall.
The only places we noticed hard icy rimed wind scoured snow was right at the top of the corrie rims - good for crampons but not so nice for our planned descent of the Goat Track on skis!
There were only two climbers in Coire an t-Sneachda though apparently a number of people climbed up Fiacaill Ridge.
Jim H one of the fittest guys we know had found foot travel into the corries absolutely exhausting. I have to admit to a smug grin as we whooshed over the snow surface as they struggled through knee deep snow. I got my comeuppance at the top of the Goat Track though!
Jim and his friend had climbed Broken Gully and found lots of unconsolidated snow and crap ice...
Monday evening ski tour video at
Friday, 11 April 2008

Great ski touring

Great ski touring throughout the Cairngorms. Off -piste there's great silky powder snow with a firm base above 1,000 metres though at lower elevations the snow is getting heavier and starting to consolidate. With the drop in temperatures this weekend the snow should become quite firm below 900 metres. The winds today were from a southerly direction and were building small cornices and loading windslab onto north facing coire bowls and gullies. There was a big avalanche yesterday on a north facing coire bowl so take extra care if climbing or descending into Coire an t-Sneachda and Coire an Lochain ...

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Great skiing and well done Cairngorm Mountain...!

Large Coire Cas headwall avalanche crown wall and debris. There were ski tracks going into the top of the crown wall and coming and out from the base of the avalanche debris. I wonder what happened in the middle...!
For the first time in ages we didn't mind paying for the ski pass at Cairngorm with the added bonus of the late opening. We had three last runs as everytime we returned to the bottom of the ski tow knackered, the closing time was put back 15 minutes later. Being true Scots we had to get our money worth! A video will be uploaded later of the ski conditions on Cairngorm and my video analysis of Fi's third time on alpine type skis after three years!

The very snowy Northern Corries from Loch Morlich. This is Scotland in April, an alpine paradise for ski touring on the plateau, ice climbing on Ben Nevis, mountain biking in the valleys and rock climbing on the sea cliffs. It's also strangely very quiet.... God's own land...!

Above looking into Coire an t-Sneachda and below looking into Coire an Lochain from Loch Morlich!
Click on the pictures for a closer look...
Great great great skiing.... From the plateau to the carpark the snow cover and skiing is really good! As an added bonus the kind hearted staff at Cairngorm Mountain kept the tows open until after 5:00 pm due to the excellent skiing. Everybody was happy including the staff...

Wednesday, 9 April 2008


For the first time in several days the clouds lifted and the sun came out to reveal the snow cover over the Cairngorms and .....WOW!
Apparently the "best cover for over 15 years for this time of year "was one quote from the SAIS. "There is awesome skiing on Cairngorm Mountain!" to quote from Cairngorm Mountain's website here and having seen the cover I tend to agree too!
At the moment foot travel to and from the mountains is best done in snow shoes or skis.
The avalanche risk is very high at Cat 4 (Cat 5 is the max) See the SAIS Cairngorms report and the SAIS Blog for a good photo of Coire an t-Sneachda which shows almost complete deep snow cover of the whole coire!
More details of the recent plane crash and how close it was to the Ptarmigan ski area and restaurant can be found in the Strathspey and Badenoch Herald website here.

Tons of deep powdery snow on the hill

The ski conditions are fantastic though visibility has been very poor over the last few days.
Several teams have reported abandoning the walk into the climbing venues due to very deep snow. There is also a very high Cat 4 avalanche risk so take extra care...
Monday, 7 April 2008

Great snow but skiing off limits at the Ptarmgan due to plane crash...

A lot snowier and windier than forecast.
Climbing conditions were reported as being very good over the weekend with the bonus of having the mountain to yourself in several locations. That is apart from over on Ben nevis...!
The weather and visibility were relatively poor and there were a number of call outs for the Scottish rescue teams. The rescue service were very busy in the Ben Nevis area.
Although Saturday's tragic plane crash was outwith the ski area, Cairngorm Mountain have been requested not to operate the Ptarmigan Tow until investigations have been completed. At the moment the ski condition are especially good on the upper mountain...
For more on the Cairngorm plane crash see the BBC Scotland News here, the BBC News video here and Cairngorm Mountains website here.
Sunday, 6 April 2008

Snow down to low levels making driving difficult

Snow down to low levels this evening making road travel difficult.
The Cairngorms climbing venues were again surprisingly quiet today despite white frosted crags, good neve and thick ice in places. The old snow has re-frozen hard where wind scoured with deep drifts on sheltered lee aspects. The low level cross-country forest trails have started to fill in but unfortunately today the new snow was lying on soft wet unfrozen ground in many places.
They've now found yesterdays missing plane near the Cairngorm ski area. Full details can be found here on the BBC News website.
Saturday, 5 April 2008

It's winter again...

Yes, it's snowing heavily at the moment and it's lying here outside my cottage while I drag myself away from video editing and catch up on some admin!

A big search is going on at the moment for a plane missing in the Cairngorms. See the BBC Scotland News here
We've received quite a few emails from former clients updating us on what they have been getting up to, so keep them rolling in!

I've copied a section from Chris's email below:

"It looks like you're still getting plenty of Scottish winter up there, I'm very jealous as I sit here, (supposedly) writing a dissertation.
We've been out a couple more times this winter: We had a washout of a weekend in Glencoe at the end of February and were in Torridon a couple of weeks ago: We had some really stunning days out doing the winter traverses of all the munros and we even managed to squeeze in some sea cliff climbing at Diabaig in the evenings.
Some of the people who did the beginners winter climbing course on the winter skills course got a chance to put what they'd learnt into practice climbing the likes of Fuselage Gully and a four star (I didn't believe it until I saw the pictures!) grade 1 on Beinn Alligin.
A couple of us climbed the West Buttress of Triple Buttress on Beinn Eighe which was possibly my most memorable winter day out yet.
As always I've put some photos of our trip on my flickr account, in-case you get a chance to look here
and there's a meet report on the website.
We're all working hard for exams now but we'll be back up in Scotland for the LAMM which some of us are competing in, then a week on Skye followed by hopefully a month in the alps.
So thanks again and if you let me know if we can use your services again next year that would be great. I guess it might be a little early to plan for next winter at the moment but would you be able to pencil us in?..."

Chris we'd be delighted to...
Friday, 4 April 2008

Sunny and cooler

Zoom photo of Coire an Lochain around 16:00 hrs on Friday 4th April 2008
Zoom photo of Coire an t-Sneachda around 16:00 hrs on Friday 4th April 2008
Despite the two days of warm temperatures all the main gullies are brimming full of snow and will freeze solid over the weekend. There's even some snow still on the big ledges of some of the buttress routes with ice in places. With the cold northerly winds the cliffs should rime up quickly to provide good mixed sport by next week. The easy to middle grade gullies north facing gullies should be excellent as long as they are being wind scoured by the north winds. Wild over the weekend though with significant snow being forecast right through to next weekend and the summer...!
Just received an email from Mark who did a winter mountaineering course with us in February with his dad, Simon, uncle Steve and cousin Alex. Simon and Mark returned again in Easter to put into practise everything they had learned and by the sound of it had a very enjoyable and successful trip. See Marks blog at
It's also worth looking at Mark's excellent artcle on his first outdoor lead at We look forward to reading Mark's article on his first winter lead...
I've also uploaded another video from Wednesday of Al and Derek on the Mirror. See
Thursday, 3 April 2008

Very warm on Thursday with the return of cooler conditions on Friday

Due to the very warm temperatures the Cairngorms buttresses were looking a lot blacker than yesterday. The good news is that there's still plenty of snow in the gullies, coires and on the plateau. Winter return from the weekend onwards so should provide superb snow ice conditions in the gully lines.

Wednesdays ice climbing video

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Another quiet stunning alpine day with plastic ice and spring snow

After a slightly cloudy start the clouds parted and the sun again smiled on us...
Gareth, Fi and I took advantage the great snow cover and spring like conditions to climb and video the Mirror Direct. We were later joined on the ice by Al Halewood and Derek Bain and managed to catch up with the latest outdoor gossip!
The ski area was fairly busy but considering the Easter break and great snow condition not as busy as expected. There were very few climbers about in the Northern Corries though there were some large groups of walkers sitting in the sun having a pick nick. We saw some folk in Jacob's Ladder, a solo climber on the Runnel and Derek B and Al H from the Ice Factor in Patey's Original Winter route.
Later on a mother and her young daughter climbed Aladdins Mirror and I chatted to a local Grantown climber out with his two boys on the first pitch of Patey's.
We also had a good gab about the weather reports and how quiet it was to some folk who had been on Fiacaill Ridge. We chatted to a local off piste skier and instrctor Neil who was having an excellent time skiing down the untracked snow in point five and Aladdin's Couloir - all this is on video and will be uploaded later along with the latest ice climbing video ;-)
An enjoyable, relaxed and very sociable day.

More on Fi's blog at and later on Al's blog at
Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Warmer and stormy with heavy sleety snow on the tops

Very windy with heavy rain and sun in Aviemore! The rain has been falling as snow on the tops but on the lower slopes the rain has helped pack down the powder which should firm up well once frozen.
Looks like another nice sunny day tomorrow (take care with the cornices...) We're off ice climbing...
On Friday it's to get very mild for a time before winter returns - yes, I said "winter returns" Low level snow and sub zero temperatures will further build up the excellent snow and ice conditions so we could well still be skiing and winter climbing in May or later!
I'm currently uploading Tuesdays video of us climbing on Fluted Buttress Direct. This gives a good idea of how snowy the Scottish mountains are at the moment and what to expect on a Cairngorm winter climb in March/April!
See Fi's report from yesterday at
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